RBS Main Theatre
24 August, 20.00
Vince Cable has had a multicoloured career. Deputy leader of the Lib Dems, he’s previously been a diplomat, civil servant, high-flying economist, and even acting party leader in the pre-Clegg days. Oh, and, so chairman Brian Taylor delightedly informed a packed RBS marquee, he’s also an ace ballroom dancer.
In person, the great man is greyer, and seemingly drearier, than his technicolour CV. Sober-suited, balding, an indefinable nerdiness in his voice: it’s easy to envisage him fenced behind columns of figures, giving reedy warnings of catastrophe to come (Cable was among the few economists to predict the credit crunch). It’s harder to imagine him winning votes. At least until he starts speaking.
Though Cable stresses that financial over-complexity is behind the economic crisis, he somehow manages to explain the factors that got us where we are, and the possible paths for getting out again, in lucidly straightforward language. And he does so with compelling balance. The government has been right to intervene proactively in the crisis, even if Cable disapproves of some of the measures; Gordon Brown bears some responsibility, but he’s not entirely to blame.
Nor is he afraid to say what people don’t want to hear, albeit with commendable delicacy. Is Britain’s financial situation looking up? Well, maybe. Cable sees the recession as a sort of economic heart-attack: the economy may be stabilising, but it’s still in intensive care. He doesn’t speak for too long, holds attention, devotes half the session to questions from the floor, which he answers convincingly and knowledgeably. The dream that this man might run the UK exchequer is eminently reassuring.
And let’s be honest: a politician with the bravado to stand in the centre of Edinburgh and call Scotland ‘a large bank with a small country attached’ can have my vote any day.